Portugal’s ‘breath of Spring’ today as businesses open up is being tainted by the news that the country’s Rt (transmission) rate has reached 1 – and is starting to impact on hospital admission numbers.
On Good Friday there were 512 people in the nation’s hospitals (archipelagos of Madeira and Azores included). Today’s bulletin reports 536.
In the space of 48-hours (today’s bulletin reflects the situation on Sunday), another 24 people were admitted to hospital with complications as a result of contracting Covid-19.
For now, intensive care units have not reflected the increase. Numbers are consistently reducing in ICUs across the country – to the point that today’s bulletin shows only 112 people in the worst stages of Covid infection.
But the rising Rt is an indication of where we could be headed. And as such, with stage two of deconfinement underway, the country is ‘on dangerous ground’.
Experts have consistently warned that the Rt will increase as deconfinement advances. It’s a question of ‘containment’ – and thus the warnings in the press of 26 boroughs/ areas that face having the brakes pulled on further glimpses of comparative freedom (see link to bulletin and scroll down for list of boroughs).
The trouble with this ‘news’ is that the 26 boroughs, in order to be properly contained, may require ‘surrounding boroughs’ to be penalised with them. Thus 26 can morph easily into three times that number – at a time when businesses everywhere are at the end of their tethers.
On the face of it however, today’s bulletin looks ‘good’: only six deaths, only 158 new infections; 320 people have been deemed ‘recovered’ and the overall active case count is down to 25,966. In a country of 10.2 million, it’s a tiny percentage.
Since the start of the pandemic, Portugal has lost 16,885 people following Covid-19 infection. But considering 823,494 have been confirmed as having contracted the virus, again it is a tiny percentage (which actually never seems to alter: it has been 2.05% for months now).
Concerns today are that numbers arriving in hospitals do continue to rise. To this end President Marcelo has been appealing to citizens to “engage in the national effort” to combat Covid-19 so that April 19 can see the country move forwards to phase three of deconfinement – the moment when:
- further educational establishments and universities will be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching
- cinemas, theatres, auditoria and similar will reopen
- as well as shops, malls and Lojas de Cidadão (citizens’ shops)
- restaurants, cafés and coffee shops (with a maximum of four people at tables inside, and six outside) till 10.30 pm on weekdays, 1pm on weekends and Bank Holidays
- medium risk sports
- outdoor physical activities for groups of up to six people
- outdoor events, with reduced audience
- weddings and baptisms at 25% capacity.
There is still a phase four to follow phase three (and to get there, the Rt has to be under control click here).